As we approach November 9th, it’s time for Spanish authorities to define their next Covid measures. At present, national and regional governments are examining whether the latest strategies to curb the pandemic are working against a worrying spiral in cases in many parts of Spain.
When Congress voted for the new state of alarm – scheduled to last until May 9th 2021 – it devolved powers to local authorities to impose further safety measures. These powers, however, stop short of allowing autonomous regions to impose home confinement. Whether we should have a further lockdown, with people largely made to stay at home, is now being widely considered.
Many countries are revisiting the use of lockdowns against the virus, including the UK. Although some of the current lockdowns aren’t as restrictive as those experienced during spring, many countries view domestic confinement as a vital tool in the Covid armoury.
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In Spain, the option of a further confinement – even a less restrictive one – is a topic that causes widespread disagreement.
Some regions, currently Asturias and Melilla, are requesting authority from central government to impose lockdown measures – a move that central government is resisting. The regions have the authority to impose other safety measures.
From the recent curfew to restrictions on crossing regional and even municipal borders, a degree of divergence and flexibility exists across Spain. Now some regions are introducing additional measures. In Castilla y León and Catalonia, fresh restrictions include the closure of bars and restaurants; in Asturias, it is the closure of non-essential businesses.
Experts are divided over the timing of further preventive measures. Some, such as Antoni Triller, Professor of Preventive Medicine at Barcelona University, suggest holding off until the impact of current measures is reflected in transmission rates. His view is supported by Andrea Burón, spokesman for the Spanish Public Health Association (Sespas), who believes another week is required to review the impact of current measures.
On the topic of another lockdown, Health Minister, Salvador Illa, says: “We are neither working on it nor expecting it. We think the wide range of measures available to regional authorities is enough.”
José Martínez Olmos, general secretary of the Health Ministry, favours another lockdown. He said: “Home confinement is unavoidable and desirable in some territories where there is an objective risk of hospitals reaching breaking point.”
The view of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is more nuanced. It states that lockdowns are not the best way of controlling the virus but are sometimes necessary to bring the number of cases under control.
This comes with a caveat that lockdowns should be used wisely. WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,commented: “So-called lockdowns can help to take the heat out of a country’s epidemic, but they cannot end it alone. Countries must now ensure they can detect, test, isolate and care for every case, and trace every contact.”
In an interview with the ‘Spectator’, Doctor Mike Ryan, WHO executive director for health emergencies, told Andrew Neil: “A robust regime of identifying and isolating new cases is the key to avoiding lockdowns. If we’re going to moveaway from that approach as a means of suppressing the virus, we have got to put in place the public health surveillance, the isolation, the quarantine, the case finding, the detection.”
It remains to be seen whether Spain has the necessary alternatives to avoid a further lockdown – even a “lockdown light”. The experts currently concur that any future lockdown won’t be as severe as the first one. I suspect they also agree that it cannot be ruled out entirely.
Wherever you live in Spain, you will experience further measures to protect lives. These will come at a cost. Some people will support them, while others will fight against them. We will, to some extent, choose whether we implement our own measures for personal safety. What we shouldn’t do is disregard the measures introduced by regional or national government.
Neither local nor central government have handled the pandemic perfectly. However, I’ll keep doing what I’m told, and a bit more on top. Yes, I’m fed up with the limitations placed on my life, but I’m grateful not to have caught Covid. I’ll continue to support government plans, and my own, to keep me healthy.
By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain